One of the most important courses in any meal is the dessert. And, like the final act in a good play, is long remembered with pleasure.
4 oz (mailondes?) sweet chocolate
4 egg whites
Work in egg yolks to chocolate melted gradually. Stir until smooth. Then beat whites to a stiff froth. Mix together lightly. Pour in dish and let stand in ice for 4 hours. Serve with whipped cream.
Upon my grandmother’s passing many years ago, and in going through at the time with family her personal papers and belongings, I came to be the keeper of her recipes, including the one above for Chocolate Marie.
My late grandmother was an apex cook all her life, and for much of her adult life put this self-taught genius to work for a wealthy family on Long Island’s east end. I’ve written before about her coming to America from Ireland in the 1920’s (https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/all-for-luck-kpkn/) and how like many Irish immigrants she sought relief from famine, not fortune.
My grandmother also fled “The Troubles” — the violence that spilled out of Northern Ireland, where Protestant communities loyal to British rule squared off in bloody battle against Roman Catholic nationalists. During this time, the school in my grandmother’s village was burned to the ground by British forces, and Catholics in the area, like her family, were forbidden to congregate or attend church services.
My grandmother was the first of her many siblings to leave for this country. Others followed, but she paved the way, and sponsored them. She was very courageous. I cannot imagine leaving all and everything behind to go to a new land and then, once arriving, to survive, and, eventually thrive. And despite having little formal education, she liked to read (the newspaper, and celebrity tabloids!), and she could write, well enough to compile an impressive scrapbook-type portfolio of handwritten recipes
In many ways, my grandmother’s recipes are a lot like she was. There is a sincerity and a simplicity in the list of ingredients, and an attentiveness toward others — who she was cooking for. In the case of Chocolate Marie, on the recipe I found, was the last name of the family she worked. My grandmother including the name meant either two things: the recipe was given to her by a family member, most likely the matriarch of the clan, who set the house menu, or she had made it on her own and they fell in love with the dish.
To me, the name on the recipe is just as important as any ingredient. I know for my grandmother, who was devoted to the family, grateful for all they gave her and her family, (job, security, a home), making that Chocolate Marie was an act of loyalty and love. Having the name on the recipe was less a reminder of where it came from, and more an inspiration of who it would go to — empowering her, each time, to create the dish to the heights she thought the family deserved.
Maybe I am making too much out of it — looking too deep. I’ve been accused before. And it won’t be the last time.
I truly believe there is meaning in everything. My grandmother was simple, yes, and she cooked simple, but in this simplicity was immense depth and courage, charity and faith. She was an infinitely good person.
Along with cooking, she loved the country she left, and loved, even more, the country that took her in and gave her a new life. She loved God, loved to go to church, and spread holy water on the furnace in our house before storms. She loved to laugh and drink tea with friends and after read the leaves for her fortune. She loved her own family, and the family she served. And she loved a good recipe.
Like Chocolate Marie. Why don’t you give it a try? And if you serve it to someone who loves it, maybe write their name on the recipe to remind you what is the most important ingredient.
Originally published at https://goodmenproject.com on February 8, 2021.